In the long history of automobilia, you won’t find many forms of transportation that provoke a more masculine imagery than the legendary Willys-Jeep. I have seen piles and piles of historical photographic evidence of Jeeps being used as mounting platforms for machine guns, rocket launchers and even a few that have been equipped with flame throwers, an option that could undoubtedly be credited with the total elimination of any and all traces of road rage, as we know it. In fact, some of the tamest photos you will find are the ones that show Jeeps merely traversing rugged terrain or carting battle-worn soldiers to and fro. Just the fact that the Jeeps driver is almost completely exposed and unprotected to his surroundings, however threatening or hostile, lends to support the fact that the Jeep is a no-frills method of transport that truly raised the bar of macho-ism for future military Humvees, what with all their roofs, doors and trinkets. You would be very safe to say that if ‘The Duke’, John Wayne himself, were still alive today, he would certainly and proudly be most at home behind the wheel of an old Jeep, without a doubt… but then you see ‘IT’ basking in all of its pastel glory.
The Jeep Surrey/ Gala was introduced in 1959 and, possibly involuntarily, traded in its standard-issue 4-wheel drive and manly olive drab-dressing for an Easter egg palette of glossy acrylic paints, fringed dangling tassels and striped interiors that are reminiscent of gaudy 1950’s lawn furniture you might have found at a chic Hollywood country club. Such an exchange barely registers as appropriate for any Jeep that stood a chance of being seen in public. The fact that the Surrey was essentially neutered based on its complete lack of a transfer case and the inappropriate addition of a column-shifted transmission speaks to the intended purpose for which the Surrey was built- to serve as a resort car that could be economically driven by staff or rented out to guests at tropical island locales, a likely predecessor to today’s club cars and golf carts but with a blatantly flowery personality that seemed to defy its Willys / Jeep lineage.
The Jeep Surrey / Gala was essentially an exterior trim package for the two-wheel drive ‘59-‘64 DJ-3A Dispatcher which had already distinguished itself in the Jeep lineup as an invaluable light-duty workhorse, being used in a variety of capacities from postal and parcel delivery to serving as an all-purpose utility vehicle at airports and large manufacturing facilities. The DJ-3A was made available to consumers with multiple basic top variations to suit their projected function, with the hardtop and conventional canvas top being the most common. The addition of the Surrey Top, with its wide two-tone stripes and sassy fringed edge treatments, was the perfect complement to the distinct palette of paint hues offered on the Surrey- Tropical Rose, Cerulean Blue and Jade Tint Green which were all softened by a contrasting shade of white. Is it possible that these flamboyant colors were chosen to help discourage theft or, at a bare minimum, to keep the Surreys drivers from abusing their usage of the car. You can’t exactly sneak off the resort property in a car that looks like a go-go dancer without being noticed. Nonetheless, these purpose built cars were easily able to carry four passengers over a greater variety of roads and terrain, a real benefit over early golf carts that were limited to just two passengers and whose limited off-road ability was likely to leave resort guests stranded with little hope of recalling their vacation memories with fondness. The Surrey changed all that. With such flashy charisma, it wasn’t long before these two-wheel drive vibrantly colored dynamos were turning heads and making their mark. Resorts and parks were taking advantage of the Jeep Surrey on their properties worldwide and aggressively launched attractive advertising campaigns featuring the appeal of these odd little vehicles.
In their brief six year span of production, it’s estimated that 1,100 of the Surrey / Gala models were built which accounts for only about 13 percent of DJ-3A models total production between ’59 and ’64, making them very rare and desirable today to collectors and enthusiasts. The one & only King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley, even found the Surrey to be interesting enough that he added a ’60 model Surrey, in Tropical Rose to match his pink Cadillac, to his personal collection for use around his estate in the early sixties. Having achieved such a high level of celebrity, Elvis’ Surrey is still on display in the museum at Graceland to this day. The King had a lengthy and well-documented history with Jeeps, having driven them extensively during his stint in the U.S. Army as well as co-starring with them in several of his feature films. It was only natural that he would want one for his own. He wasn’t about to be scared off by the Surreys fancy fringes or bold floral colors. He subsequently seemed more than happy to appear in skin-tight pant suits and glamorous sequins. Afterall, he wasn’t exactly ‘The Duke’. OlllllllO